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Are you a young adult who can’t stop thinking about drinking alcohol? Perhaps you know someone who might have an unhealthy relationship with drinking?
It’s easy to make excuses for your alcohol-use when you seem to be immune from negative-consequences. Have you considered that you might have high-functioning alcoholism?
You may not believe that your drinking rises to the level of being a functional-alcoholic. In the past, some have even advocated drinking a glass of wine a day to improve heart health. Recent research uncovered a link between one small daily drink and an increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
If you’re wondering whether someone you know has a problem with alcohol, you need to read our guide. We’re going to let you know all the key indicators, along with what to do next. Read on!
What is high-functioning alcoholism? Our typical stereotype of an alcoholic is an inebriated individual with slurred speech, who is unable to hold down a job. We also tend to picture someone who has problems maintaining family relationships and friendships.
A highly-functional alcoholic turns the commonly held notion of a drunk on its head. That’s because a drink-problem can fall into several categories, and in this particular case, it’s not easy to spot the tell-tale signs.
The quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption can vary in high-functioning alcoholism, but there is usually an obsession with drink present. Hallmarks of an alcohol-use disorder may even be present in moderate drinkers. Cravings and withdrawal are the best clues that an unhealthy attachment has formed.
There may be no history of DUI convictions because the drinker thinks they can control the addiction. These may start to occur as the effects of abusive alcohol-use start to catch up on the individual. Although a functioning alcoholic may not miss days from work or school, this will occur as the negative-effects start to snowball.
With other forms of alcoholism, these signs of spiraling, including fights with loved ones, may provoke an intervention. With the highly-functional alcoholic, their activity can last months, years, or even decades. Often it is declining health linked to the drinking that forces an intervention.
Liver or heart disease is a common outward sign, along with brain damage, cancer, and depression.
Not knowing when to stop is a clear indicator of an issue with drinking. A compulsive attitude to alcohol is usually present, with the person perhaps believing that they need to drink daily to relieve stress. They may even drink a moderate amount of alcohol throughout their day to reduce their cravings.
Binge drinking every evening or weekend is another clear sign of an alcohol-use problem. On average, a high-functioning alcoholic may drink every other day, with five or more drinks in one sitting being common.
Drinking in the morning is a serious red flag of an escalating dependence. Consuming alcohol to the point of a blackout is also a warning sign that the addiction is getting out of control.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outline the definitions of a standard drink as it relates to excessive drinking. The CDC recommends that those who are recovering from alcoholism (or are unable to control the amount they drink) should abstain entirely.
One of the signs of high-functioning alcoholism is avoiding eating. Craving alcohol can dwarf the feeling of hunger.
Family members and friends may unwittingly enable this continued behavior for a variety of reasons. This may be because of codependency and a desire to keep the peace at home. As well as fearing a confrontation, friends or family may wish to protect the alcoholic, especially if they are financially dependent on them.
Family and friends may even joke about the drink problem, which normalizes it to the drinker. Ignoring the alarm bells and making excuses is common. Usually, by the time the alcoholic receives treatment, family members will also require assistance.
Support groups and therapy sessions can help the families of alcoholics repair from the emotional and psychological damage.
What should you look for if you’re asking: “Is my child an alcoholic?”
A radical shift in the way they act may be one of the best clues. When they are drinking, their mood will be very different. They may even start to skip social events and gatherings to drink alone at home.
Another aspect to pay attention to is whether your child may be relying on alcohol for confidence. Perhaps they have social anxiety or feel like they need a drink to handle stressful situations? Although high-functioning alcoholism tends to appear in the late 30s, problem drinking itself usually starts as a teenager.
The social and legal repercussions can’t be delayed forever. Eventually, the psychological and emotional damage behind the scenes will be compounded by health issues.
Alcoholics are often angry when confronted about their drinking. To stage a successful intervention, it may be better to consult with a doctor first. Often, health tests can help an alcoholic face reality, such as a blood test highlighting altered kidney function.
Some of these adverse health effects may be reversed or halted by quitting drink.
How do we differentiate between alcoholism vs. high-functioning alcoholism? Often with the highly-functional alcoholic, it’s the secrecy that sets them apart. They are used to hiding bottles to disguise their habit and have developed ways to cover up their behavior.
Usually, significant denial is present, as the alcoholic has justified their behavior, often for years. This is because they have also been able to keep up with their daily responsibilities. They are likely to refuse help, and only those closest to them can see the real problem.
Rehab for high-functioning alcoholics often begins with a medically-supervised detox. This breaks the dangerous stage of physical dependence. Next, relapse prevention treatments kick in, and a drinker learns how to replace alcohol with healthy alternative behaviors.
We’ve shown that high-functioning alcoholism can be tough to spot on the surface. Don’t watch a loved one ruin their health or buy into their false justifications for drinking.
If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol use, we can help. We are an addiction treatment center in New Jersey, and we specialize in alcohol detox and rehab. We provide mental health services that support the pathway to a successful future.
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